Community perceptions and barriers to accessing local produce in the Dunbar-Southlands Chikowero, Rumbidzai
Understanding a community’s lived experiences is pivotal when preparing to engage, participate and influence the community’s experiences. By asking the questions “What are the community perceptions of local produce in the Dunbar-Southlands?” and “What are the present barriers or challenges that community members face in accessing local produce?”, the researcher partnered with the UBC Farm sought to understand the Dunbar-Southlands residents’ views and access to local produce. Interviewing 3 residents and 3 experts, distributing a questionnaire to 40 residents and compiling demographic data provided answers that informed the recommendations made to the UBC Farm. The research found that residents perceive local produce to be better than conventional produce. Experts and the residents revealed that freshness, quality, taste, supporting the local economy and lowered carbon emissions were the main motivations for buying local produce. The following barriers to accessing local produce were also revealed: residents find that it is not easy to physically access places selling local produce, the price of said local produce is higher than conventional produce, consuming local produce would make no difference to their wellbeing and limited education about local produce prevent some residents from understanding or justifying the expense. When asked, residents expressed a desire for more affordable prices, increased access to and more education about local produce. It can be said that residents were of the opinion that local produce is better, but local is not necessarily accessible and is expensive. Among the residents that do want to buy local, the challenge lies in making it easier for them to do so – whether in terms of increasing general accessibility or providing them rational reasons for the expense. It is thus recommended that the UBC Farm (1) educate residents about the value of buying and consuming local produce, (2) bring local produce to the residents, (3) make local produce more affordable for the residents who can’t afford to splurge on food, and (4) partner with small, experienced producers in the area to re-mould the residents’ lived experience of local produce in an effective and far reaching way. Given the limited resources and narrowed scope of this paper’s focus, future research might look into how these neighbourhood food experiences fit within the City of Vancouver “greening” ambitions and food strategies. Taken as a launching point, this paper’s recommendations can begin to guide the UBC Farm in its ambitions to engage surrounding neighbourhoods and form more sustainable communities.
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